Imo: Stakeholders accuse oil companies of neglecting host communities

Stakeholders from oil-producing communities in Imo State have indicted multinational oil companies operating in the area for neglecting their social and economic responsibilities towards addressing many challenges facing the people of the area.

The accusation was made during a stakeholder summit held in Owerri organised by the Commissioner for Niger Delta Affairs, Prince Henry Okafor, towards finding solutions to youth restiveness associated with oil bunkering and vandalisation of pipelines.

Addressing the gathering, the commissioner said that the importance of the meeting was for the government to dialogue with the people of oil-producing communities on how to put an end to hostile activities associated with the destruction of pipelines, which is causing a lot of environmental pollution and decreasing production output.

He also said that the gathering was to discuss means of bringing the direction of the oil companies to the plight of the people by addressing the economic and social needs facing them.

Okafor informed that under his watch, the ministry will never play politics in dealing with the challenges facing the people.

“Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs is standing for the owners of land where oil companies operate. We are to defend and speak for their welfare. We are not for politics. We are here for the real challenges being faced by our people,” he said.

The Niger Delta Affairs commissioner, however, appealed to the youths of the oil-rich region to shun activities that are capable of disrupting the good plans the state government has for them, noting that meaningful development cannot thrive in a hostile environment.

The chairman of the occasion, a former Inspector General of Nigeria Police and former chairman of the Nigeria Police Commission, Chief Mike Okiro, said that the gathering is a landmark event that will herald a new beginning for the way forward regarding the plight of oil-producing communities.

He noted that it is the first time in the state that such a ministry will be created solely for the affairs of the host communities, who are directly bearing the consequences of operational activities by oil companies.

In his contribution during the panel discussion session, Christian Onyekachi, a native of Agwa community, said that the major problem the host communities are facing is the selfish activities of the oil companies operating in the area, who failed to put the interests of the host communities in their scheme of things.

He accused them of concentrating only on drilling and milking dry the natural resources belonging to the people without paying attention to their plights, such as bad roads, decaying school structures, lack of electricity and unemployment.

Onyekachi said that the only way to stop illegal oil bunkering and vandalisation of oil installations is for oil companies to begin to live up to their responsibilities by looking into the social needs of the people where they operate.

The event was attended by the Imo State Commissioner for Petroleum, Emeka Ngbudem, present and past members of the Imo State House of Assembly from the areas, traditional rulers, women, youths and students.

Imo: Stakeholders accuse oil companies of neglecting host communities

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